Tulane unjustly denies renowned researcher important data

Dr. Gerald S. Berenson, a renowned cardiovascular researcher and former research professor at Tulane University, is suing Tulane for access to data he collected in the Bogalusa heart study, his ongoing research project. Tulane claims legal ownership of the data, but Berenson asserts he is legally entitled to his own data. Regardless of legal ownership, Tulane should grant Berenson access to the data he needs in order to continue his potentially life-saving research.

Berenson founded the study in 1972, which proved to be one of the largest and most influential in the field of cardiology. Among other discoveries, the data collected from the study found a connection between early environmental risk factors and cardiovascular disease later in life. Berenson joined Tulane’s faculty in 1991, bringing the research project under the auspices of the university. He collaborated with other researchers at Tulane and made further discoveries, earning several awards along the way.

Tulane began limiting Berenson’s involvement in the Bogalusa study and cutting his salary in 2013 for reasons not made publicly clear. The university fired the 94-year-old research professor in June 2016 from the Department of Epidemiology of the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. He continues to carry out unpaid research in the Department of Medicine, Biochemistry and Pediatrics but lacks access to some of the data Tulane unjustly withholds from the Bogalusa heart study.

Berenson filed a lawsuit in September against his alma mater, claiming, among other things, that the university harmed his reputation, committed age discrimination and blocked access to data from the study he started. Judge Robin Giarrusso dismissed the claims of defamation and age discrimination, but other claims remain unresolved. Whether or not all of these allegations are true, Tulane has blocked access to important data, and the strained relationship between the two parties should not hinder Berenson’s research.

Despite Berenson’s allegations, Tulane insists that it owns and is responsible for the data and therefore must follow federal regulations regarding the release of data to individuals. It is unreasonable, however, for the university to cite federal policy when dealing with a single researcher’s request for information.

Regardless of potential legal protection, Tulane’s refusal to give Berenson, a 94-year-old Tulane alum and celebrated cardiovascular researcher, data from his own research project for the purposes of continuing his research is unjustifiable. Berenson has devoted his life’s work to his research, and Tulane’s actions disrespect Berenson and denigrate his work. The university should immediately concede to Berenson’s demands and give him the data he needs to continue his research.

This is an opinion article and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo. Cam is a freshman at Newcomb-Tulane College. He can be reached at [email protected].

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